“KISS” #1 has the benefit of being the first KISS comic book I have ever read. The band members (referred to as a “band” in a gathering sense rather than musical) appear in their famous stage make-up and modified versions of their costumes, but are not equipped to rock the house. Instead, they are dropped into the lives of “ordinary” people and become super-powered avatars of the Elder.
Admittedly, I picked this book up mostly for Jamal Igle’s artwork. His clean lines, powerful figures and detailed backgrounds are an instant draw for me. This issue is absolutely no exception. Igle really delivers some great art in this issue. Putting the Demon, the Starchild, the Celestial and the Catman on the streets of Depression-era Chicago opens up a world of visual non-conformities that make for compelling comic book images. Gene Simmons in full Demon regalia waggling his tongue at passersby on the streets of Chicago comes just pages after a gangster fires a gun that is loaded with savage, demonic spidery things. Igle is unleashed here and shows that whatever any story calls for, he can certainly handle it.
Chris Ryall’s story has a deceptively simple premise: KISS in 1920s Chicago running afoul of a gangster named Wicked Lester. Yes, it’s odd and contrived and heavy-handed, but Ryall farms some iconic KISS concepts with that premise. In doing so, he certainly wins favor with members of the KISS Army. Playing more along the fantastic and absurd, Ryall imbues a quartet of artifacts with the ability to transform four people into avatars of the Elder. Those four people become the black-and-white (and silver) faced characters, resplendent with powers to help them in their battle against Wicked Lester and his Destroyer-powered forces. Recognizable as the beloved band, but empowered as superheroic beings, KISS is set into conflict against a menacing foe.
Ryall coats the story concept in thick — sometimes too thick — explanation, giving the most uninformed comic book reader equal ground to stand on as those most devoted members of the aforementioned Army. There’s a lot of information in this comic, a decent story with an intriguing cliffhanger, some great art and a nice hook for a neophyte like me. For more informed fans of the band, this book is littered with subtle and not-so-subtle winks, nods and homages. Taken as a comic book, this is a story unlike anything else that’s going to be on the stands this week. Taken as a “KISS” comic, this is exactly what fans of the band have been waiting for: KISS fighting the good fight and looking stellar in doing so.